'Curse of Chucky': Director Don Mancini talks about his horror sequel
Legendary character actor Brad Dourif once again voices the titular killer-doll in Curse of Chucky, the sixth film in the Child’s Play series , which is released on Blu-ray and DVD tomorrow and is also available via VOD. The twist? One of the people Dourif’s doll most wants to kill — a wheelchair-bound woman named Nica — is played by the actor’s daughter, Fiona. “I think we’re the first horror franchise in history where the iconic villain is onscreen bedeviling his actual offscreen progeny, ” says Curse of Chucky writer-director and longtime franchise scribe Don Mancini. So did Mancini get a discount deal as a result of casting two actors from the same clan? “I personally get a deal in the sense that I probably get to have dinner at their house maybe a couple more times a year, having endeared myself to them,” laughs the filmmaker. “But, no. They both drive a hard bargain.”
Below, Mancini talks more about Curse of Chucky and about his “semi-serious” dream of bringing Chucky to Broadway! (WARNING: At the end of the interview we also discuss the spoilery subject of a “surprise,” although now much publicized, cameo at the end of Curse.)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I understand you searched far and wide for your lead actress, which must in retrospect must seem like a huge waste of time given that you ultimately cast Fiona Dourif in the role. When did you realize your star had been under your nose all along?
DON MANCINI: Well, she originally came in to read for the part of the bitchy sister. She was good but I was looking at her and thinking, “Wow, she’d actually be an interesting Nica.” So we had her come back and read for that and she blew us away. I was really excited but then I resisted it a little bit because I was worried that maybe I was getting excited for all the wrong reasons [Laughs], getting excited that I was going to be like, “Brad, she’s awesome, let’s give her the lead!” And I worried maybe it would confuse people who would think, Well, if they’re casting Brad Dourif’s daughter then this character must be the daughter of Charles Lee Ray, which is not the case. But we brought her back and she read again and she was just so spectacular. Then I just embraced it.
Curse of Chucky is a lot less comedic than the previous two films in the series, 1998’s Bride of Chucky and 2004’s Seed of Chucky. Why the change in tone?
Primarily because our fans, after Bride and Seed, were vocal about wanting Chucky to go back to his straight-up horror roots. I think that’s also the way the genre has gone. When we did Bride of Chucky in ’98, self-referential, comedic horror was very popular. By the time Seed of Chucky came out in 2004 that mood was on its way out and torture porn was just coming in.
But also for me, one of the reasons I was excited about doing Bride of Chucky and Seed of Chucky as dark comedies was because I didn’t want to make the same movie over and over again. After Child’s Play 3 — you know, 1-through-3 came out in quick succession — and there was a danger of repeating ourselves. I love dark comedy and I thought that the premise of a two-foot-tall-doll possessed by a serial killer would lend itself to a certain amount of healthy absurdity, so we mined that vein for a while. But now, after several years of that, I was looking forward to doing a straight-up horror film because, as a director, before this I’d only done Seed, which was a comedy. I was looking forward to actually making a gothic horror movie.
The movie is mostly set in one house. That’s obviously a cheaper option than setting it in 20, but you certainly makes the most of the locale.
We’re definitely dealing with a lower budget and lower schedule on this movie. It was really about turning what could have been a liability into an asset. The limited location also lends itself more to making a scary movie in my view. I mean, making Chucky scary again presumed that we were going to keep him in the shadows longer, so that you can be properly scared of him. So all of that actually dovetails nicely. It was all about concentrating our efforts on one spectacular set. It was really not possible to shoot an uninteresting angle in that set. It was so endlessly interesting.
How serious are you about making a Chucky musical one day?
Semi-serious. I don’t know if anyone else is serious about it at all but I think it could be a great musical. I actually think Bride of Chucky specifically would make a great musical because it’s a romance, or a parody of a romantic story. We’ve seen the Evil Dead musical and there’s been a Silence of the Lambs musical. I love musicals, it’s such a great American art form and the puppet-centric nature of Avenue Q really made me think. I would love to do it — whether or not it will actually happen, who knows.
Do you have any song titles in mind?
Oh, I have a few. In Bride of Chucky, (Chucky’s love interest) Tiffany has this line, “I’ll kill anyone but I’ll only sleep with someone I love.” There’s a wonderful chorus right there.
Is it okay to talk about the actress who makes a cameo at the end of Curse of Chucky?
Yeah. I think the cat’s out of the bag.
Okay, so could you remind me who on earth Jennifer Tilly is actually playing, given that previously in the franchise she’s played both Tiffany and herself?
Yes. It’s very simple.
It’s not very simple!
Okay, well let me explain it. In Seed of Chucky, Jennifer plays two roles. She plays Tiffany, who at that point is trapped in the soul of a doll, and she also plays “Jennifer Tilly” and “Jennifer Tilly” is basically the lookalike of the character of Tiffany. And that’s why Tiffany the doll is obsessed with transferring her soul into Jennifer Tilly’s body, and that’s what she does at the end of that movie. So, Jennifer Tilly basically becomes Tiffany. She has her Jennifer Tilly body but with the soul of Tiffany inside. I think the confusion comes from the fact that Tiffany always looked exactly like Jennifer Tilly. [Laughs] It’s totally simple!
You can check out the trailer for Curse of Chucky below.